Hatsu Day 13 Preview

There are days when it’s tough to write for the blog, I will be honest. The time footprint can be between 3 to 5 hours each day during honbasho. With the responsibilities of work, and being the father of a rowdy 5 year old, it is (at times) tough to get it all buttoned up and ready to publish on schedule.

Then there are days like today, where the preview for day 13 is so loaded with goodness, I could not wait for the time slot set aside to type up the preview.

The schedulers have set up a culmination point for the tournament, with the high stakes battles stacked into the Friday before senshuraku. Fine with me! A culmination point attempts to bring the threads together, and possibly finish many of them off, while leaving the door open for a resolution in the final two days, should things go “just right”. If you are going to stay up all night to watch sumo, this would be the night to do it.

In Juryo, we have both 11-1 rikishi, former Ozeki Asanoyama and hot shot colleague champion Kinbozan going head to head, knocking one of them out of the lead for the Juryo yusho and a shot at the top division for Osaka. At the start of the top division fight card, Enho comes up to face Mitoryu. He’s 6-6, and not too likely to qualify for promotion back to Makuuchi, but the guy is an absolute crowd favorite, and I anticipate he will be roundly cheered today.

To finish the day, yusho race leader Onosho must defend his position against Ozeki Takakeisho, who has inexplicably lost the last two matches in a row, scuttling his bid to be promoted to Yokozuna. He has a shot to claw back some measure of redemption today with a win against fellow tadpole Onosho, which would bring the race for the cup back to a tie.

Call the neighbors, wake the kids. Put the sake in the refrigerator, and order up a big plate of katsu curry, it’s going to be a brawl.

Hatsu Leaderboard

As stated just above, Onosho has to defend his lead today. He is not known for being able to beat Takakeisho, so he has his work cut out for him. But these two have been fighting since they were children, competing in youth and school sumo tournaments since an early age.

Leader: Onosho
Chasers: Takakeisho, Kotoshoho

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Enho vs Mitoryu – Enho is 6-6. He needs 2 more wins in the last 3 days to hit kachi-koshi, and at least retain rank. He’s ranked Juryo 4E, so not sure about his promotion chances right now, but it would be good to see him in the promotion zone for March. He has a 5-3 career advantage against 5-7 Mitoryu. I loss today by Mitoryu would be make-koshi, and he may join that heavily loaded Juryo barge of the damed. Enho has won all of their matches since 2020, so I am looking for him to have an edge here.

Kagayaki vs Ichiyamamoto – Same drill as yesterday, Ichiyamamoto. Both are 7-5, and if you win, you get kachi-koshi. Loser gets to try again tomorrow. Prior matches are an even 1-1 split. I think right now Kagayaki is fighting somewhat stronger than Ichiyamamoto, in part because of how disoriented Ichiyamamoto looked in his day 12 loss to Endo.

Chiyoshoma vs Azumaryu – If I were Azumaryu (8-4), I would henka this clown today. Who cares if you lose this one, you are kachi-koshi. Also, it would be fitting if Chiyoshoma (5-7) took his 8th loss by such a move. Instead I think that both of them are going to engage in a straight ahead match, and that we will once against see Chiyoshoma struggle to generate any kind of forward pressure for more than 5 seconds. Azumaryu has a 6-1 career record against him, and I expect him to continue to dominate.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Aoiyama (7-5) looking for his 8th win today, against already kachi-koshi Endo at 8-4. At Maegashira 9W, Endo is at a comfortable rank right now, and he can usually go 8-7 or 7-8 from here. So I will be interested to see if he decides he wants to try and run up the score and land in the joi-jin for March. Aoiyama holds a 7-5 career advantage, and the split their two matches last year 1-1.

Takanosho vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru (3-9) is already the bosun’s mate for the Juryo barge this time around, so I look at this match and wonder if the point is to get Takanosho (5-7) a “mercy” win, or to give Chiyomaru a chance to share the make-koshi love. Chiyomaru has a slight 3-2 edge, but that won’t matter much today, as Chiyomaru is still trying to overcome an ankle injury.

Kotoeko vs Ura – This match is all about setting the stage for Darwin on day 15. Both are 6-6, both are not fighting as well as they should be, and both need 2 out of the last 3 matches to be wins for them to reach kachi-koshi. Frankly, I think Ura should own a make-koshi record, and end up a bit further south on the banzuke for his home town of Osaka. I would love to see him do well in front of the fans.

Tsurugisho vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu is already make-koshi at 4-8, and one more loss for 5-7 Tsurugisho would make him make-koshi too. At this point its all about sorting these people out into winning and losing records, and having them face people near their rank that they have not already fought this basho.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Takarafuji has lost 3 of the last 4, and I want him to somehow find that 8th win. I am not sure which of these two 7-5 rikishi I would give the edge to today, Takarafuji who has won more head to head, or Nishikigi who has overall fought better this tournament. Nishikigi won 2 of their three matches in 2022.

Oho vs Sadanoumi – This match take step “sure, why not” slot. We have M6 Oho at 1-11, and M4 Sadanoumi at 4-8. Both are already make-koshi, and neither one of them is likely to drop to Juryo. So it’s really just to further sort these fellows out, and try to see if somehow Oho can pick up more than one win this January.

Abi vs Kotoshoho – A high interest match, we have last basho’s yusho winner, Abi, at 7-5 up against Kotoshoho (9-3), who still finds himself 1 win behind the current yusho leader, Onosho. He has never won against Abi, in 2 prior attempts. I think this may be an effort to know Kotoshoho out of contention, and reduce the yusho race to 2 people. But Kotoshoho may have other ideas. He’s already beaten other rikishi this January that he tends to lose to, and he’s stayed very strong through the second week. I personally think this one has acres of potential.

Hiradoumi vs Daieisho – First ever match between these two, it features 7-5 Hiradoumi trying to pull out his 8th win against already kachi-koshi (8-4) Daieisho. Daieisho has won the last two in a row, after losing 3 straight just before that. I think he has his sumo well in hand, and will give Hiradoumi a sharp, short battle.

Tobizaru vs Mitakeumi – A battle of great sadness, the loser of these two 5-7 men will be make-koshi today. I really don’t want to see Mitakeumi eat yet another losing record. But to me, that looks like a very real possibility today. He does have a 4-1 career advantage over Tobizaru, but his sumo has been day to day for the last several tournaments.

Hokutofuji vs Wakamotoharu – Now look what they have done. If Hokutofuji wins today, which I think he will, he will have his 8th win and cannot achieve “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”. He has a 7-5 score to start the day against Wakamotoharu’s 6-6. Hokutofuji won 3 of their four matches last year.

Meisei vs Nishikifuji – Another make-koshi bracket match, this time is 4-8 Meisei vs 3-9 Nishikifuji. Both of them are going to have a few months to sort their bodies and their sumo out, and hopefully come back healthy and ready to fight in March. In the mean time, they may just fight among the other make-koshi rikishi to keep any of the healthy ones from reaping an easy win against them.

Tamawashi vs Kotonowaka – I would guess this match is to sort 5-7 Kotonowaka into the make-koshi bin, as I don’t really see how he can put up too much of a fight against 8-4 Tamawashi right now. The numbers would say that he has a 5-3 career lead, but that won’t matter right now, as Tamawashi is in good fighting form, and Kotonowaka is not.

Kiribayama vs Midorifuji – Kachi-koshi Kiribayama at 8-4 gets to fight 6-6 Midorifuji. They split their matches in 2022, each winning one. In spite of Midorifuji’s lack luster record, dare we hope for a katasukashi today?

Wakatakakage vs Hoshoryu – Two Ozeki aspirants, neither one of them really have the chops right now to make a bid. Hoshoryu would need to win all of the last 3 to get to 10 wins, and Wakatakakage needs to win 2 of the last 3 just to get to kachi-koshi. It’s just as likely he will continue to ride the center line, and end up in a Darwin match on Sunday. Wakatakakage has a 7-3 career advantage against Hoshoryu, so I hope that means a good match today.

Ryuden vs Shodai – If 6-6 Shodai wins 2 of the last 3, he’s kachi-koshi for Hatsu. As odd as it may seem, given that I have been quite critical of him in the past, I would like to see him make his 8. If for no other reason that I think that he has some health problem that has sapped his sumo, and hope that once he can resolve that, we might again seem him dominate matches in the future. Ryuden (7-5) can reach kachi-koshi today with a win, but has a 1-6 career record against the human daikon.

Onosho vs Takakeisho – The big taco, the ofutomaki of the basho, the double wide, wheels on fire, run away beer truck rolling down the I-70 grade into Denver with no breaks and no driver, this is the match that will settle a very important score. Can tournament leader Onosho (10-2) overcome his 3-11 career disadvantage over Ozeki Takakeisho (9-3), and all but win the yusho today. The last time Onosho (Red Tadpole) beat Takakeisho (Grand Tadpole) was 2 years ago, at Hatsu 2021. Since that day, Takakeisho has taken 6 in a row from Onosho. I am certain he starts today with absolute determination to dispatch Onosho within the first 10 seconds. Such an outcome would even the score at 10-3, possibly setting the stage for a final playoff at the end of regulation on day 15. Frankly, I can’t wait.

Natsu Day 2 Preview

I am trying to not think about the creepy silence during this basho, but instead look forward to the new camera angles that give me new ways to appreciate the mechanics of sumo. I talked about getting a new view of how some of the better rikishi of the day conduct their matches in the day 1 highlights, and to me its a big deal. I am sure for sumo fans in Japan and specifically in Tokyo, watching practice at the heya would provide some of the same insights. But for a yank watching from afar, it’s really quite engaging.

It was almost a clean sweep for the named ranks on day 1, with Daieisho being the only one of the clan to hit the clay. But even he looked sharp, and nearly gave the lead Ozeki a loss on opening day. At least one of the named ranks will take a loss again today, as Takakeisho faces off against the original tadpole himself, Mitakeumi. Expectations are low on Mitakeumi this tournament, so I think the pressure is off and we may see some really solid sumo from him. At least during week 1.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura can struggle with much larger opponents – with his day 1 loss to Kaisei being a great example. He does have a solid formula for winning against the bulbous Chiyomaru, with a near even 8-9 career record. A word of caution, he has not beaten the spheroid man in the last 5 attempts.

Akua vs Chiyotairyu – Oddly enough, these two veterans have never had a match before. Let’s fix that at once! Akua has a bit of a rusty start day 1, but he will break into fighting form within the first act. Chiyotairyu’s day 1 fight with Daiamami was near perfect form for him, and I doubt that we will see Akua give him the same opportunity.

Kaisei vs Daiamami – This really comes down to what kind of condition Kaisei’s body is in this May. If he’s reasonably healthy, I can see him using his enormity and power, this far down the banzuke, to dominate most of his matches. There are actually several high-skill vets clogging up the bottom ranks, and it will start to get brutal, I predict, some time in week 2.

Kotoeko vs Akiseyama – Akiseyama’s sheer bulk tends to be a foil for Kotoeko speed and compact strength. Kotoeko has taken both prior matches this year, for an overall 4-5 record. I Akiseyama, to my eye, did look a bit rusty day 1 in his loss to Okinoumi.

Kotonowaka vs Okinoumi – Speaking of high-skill veterans, Okinoumi might possibly be able to pretzel Kotonowaka within the first 5 seconds of a match, provided that the surprisingly low ranked Sadogatake heyagashira continues to look like he did day 1 against Terutsuyoshi. I don’t think Okinoumi will use the same level of maneuver and evasion, so maybe this match may be more to Kotonowaka’s liking.

Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi – Two fast, nimble rikishi who are willing to pull slippery moves out of the bag and deploy them from the tachiai? Why, yes please! They have a 3-3 career record, and this match offers a slim chance of the elusive double-henka.

Shimanoumi vs Tamawashi – Shimanoumi has not lost to Tamawashi, ever. He holds a 2-0 advantage, but looked really shabby day 1 against Endo. By contrast, Tamawashi seems to have shown up dialed in and ready to dominate. This could be the day their career record flips to 2-1.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Long time readers know I do enjoy Kagayaki’s sumo when he’s fighting well. Which as not been since January of 2020. How he has managed to end up as Maegashira 9 after going 5-10, 6-9 and 6-9 from M3e, I will never know. But today he’s going to get spanked by Endo, I think.

Tochinoshin vs Tsurugisho – First time match between to big, big guys. Both of them lost day 1, and both of them are certainly focused on turning that around. It’s kind of early to pair up the zero loss crowd, but hey – why not.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – This is always a fun match, because Takarafuji usually tries to wear Ichinojo out. Which only happens once in a while. So instead you get Ichinojo accepting the defend and extend match format, and going all boulder against the man with no neck. Suddenly forced to cope with nearly half a ton of Mongolian granite, even the mighty Takarafuji will begin to question is choices. Then, Ichinojo wakes up and the match ends. He holds a 12-3 advantage over Takarafuji.

Hoshoryu vs Hidenoumi – This one has some nice potential, though I think due to the banzuke train wreck coming out of March, both men are a bit over ranked. They have matched twice before, and split the two. Hidenoumi took the match last tournament, and may have a slight edge on day 2.

Onosho vs Myogiryu – For Myogiryu to come out of this match the winner, he needs to not let Onosho bracket him, or allow him to lean in. We all know that Onosho has basically one fight plan, and by golly he is going to run it no matter what. When it works, is hard to stop him, but the trick is to make sure he never gets that far. Onosho holds a 6-3 career lead.

Kiribayama vs Daieisho – I kind of think that Daieisho should have put the doom on Asanoyama day 1, so I am looking for him to make it up against Kiribayama on day 2. Kiribayama has taken their last 2 matches to hold a 3-1 career record against the Hatsu yusho winner. II expect that Daieisho will open strong as is his custom, so Kiribayama will need to steady his balance at the tachiai.

Takayasu vs Chiyonokuni – I would guess Takayasu is healthy enough he is back to his wild-man sumo. This is a perfect match for Chiyonokuni’s brand of sumo. The career record reads 5-1, but these two have not fought since 2018, and a lot has happened since then. I look forward to seeing what Chiyonokuni can do today.

Tobizaru vs Takanosho – It’s flying monkey vs onigiri-kun. Takanosho looked brutally focused day 1 against Chiyonokuni, and Tobizaru may get run down and tossed away without ceremony. Takanosho holds a 5-2 career advantage.

Asanoyama vs Meisei – Asanoyama did look a bit rusty as Daieisho nearly took him out on day 1. Hopefully he has dialed up his intensity quite a bit, and is ready for what Meisei is going to unleash on him day 2. True, Meisei has only taken 1 of their prior 6 matches, but if Asanoyama wants to remain the top Ozeki, he needs to dominate these week 1 fights.

Hokutofuji vs Terunofuji – It’s early to say it, but each tournament I look for signs that Hokutofuji is hot on the trail of achieving “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All Of Sumo”, which seems to be his forte. Today we get to see what he can do against a kaiju with no knees. All joking aside, Terunofuji did look a bit creaky on day 1, and I am just looking for him to get his 8.

Shodai vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is good enough, and fast enough that he can help Shodai taste-test this tournament’s dohyo. He just needs to remove any chances that Shodai can reach into his Acme bag of cartoon sumo and deploy the unexpected or the unlikely counter-move to a well crafted attack. Shodai needs 7 more to remove kadoban and retain Ozeki.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – This first big tadpole fight of the tournament, pits two rotund examples of the amphibian sumo in the final match of the day. They come in with a 9-10 career record, but I am going to give a slight edge to Takakeisho today. He has clearly lost a good amount of flab since last year, and I think it’s been at least that long since he has been able to show as much power as he did day 1 when he sent Wakatakakage down to visit the shimpan in a heap.

Osaka Day 14 Preview

The evolution of sumo demands Darwin matches. Lots and lots of Darwin matches…

It’s the final weekend of the Haru Basho, and as odd as it has been to have nobody in the stands, I must say, as the world has gone progressively more crazy, shutting down everything, how glad I am to still have sumo to watch. The weekend promises to be sort of spectacular, with a possibly multi-way challenge for the cup on the final day, and a really disturbing number of Darwin matches. If you have not read lksumo’s write ups of the story lines or the yusho race, go check them out now.

I am going to be very interested to see what the ratings are (in Japan) for this basho. Much as in the US and the EU, all sports have been shut down as the world holds its breath and hopes they don’t start to cough. With nothing else to follow, I suspect that sumo’s numbers will be up dramatically, and just maybe that will help some people re-connect with Japan’s national sport. For fans who have been urging the NSK to throttle back on the intensity and duration of the jungyo regional tour, the jungyo following the Haru Basho has been called off or at least delayed until next year. Following senshuraku (and no senshuraku parties, I am told), the stables will return to Tokyo. For the top men of sumo, that’s 6 weeks of sequestered training, rather than a grueling tour of Japan. We don’t know what will happen for the May / Natsu basho, but given that Osaka seems to have worked, they may conduct the next tournament in the same way. If so, most of the world will be 10 weeks into societal disruption of some level, and it will be wonderful to see the ranks of the top division come together for a brutal 15 days of sumo, fresh from 6 weeks of non-stop training.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Kotonowaka vs Nishikigi – After opening strong, Kotonowaka has lost his last 4, and just can’t seem to cross the kachi-koshi line. He had better win today, or it’s Darwin time for him. He won the only prior match with already make-koshi Nishikigi.

Ishiura vs Meisei – What a position. If Meisei loses today, it’s make-koshi time, and likely a trip on the Juryo demotion barge. If he wins, it’s into the hell of a day 15 Darwin match. He holds a 3-1 career lead over Ishiura.

Shimanoumi vs Ikioi – The converse for this match—if Shimanoumi wins, he reaches the safety of kachi-koshi, and if he loses, it’s Darwin for him as well. Though he won the only prior match with Ikioi, the Osaka native is looking fairly genki, so hold on tight, this one could get rough.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh and the brutality continues! Winner of today’s match is kachi-koshi, loser goes into the Darwin pool for day 15. Now Kotoshogiku holds a 16-2 advantage over Chiyotairyu, and he seems to have found some magic knee grease to keep what’s left of his patellas moving. Chiyotairyu has about 3 seconds at the tachiai to take care of business, and after that I am sure the Kyushu Bulldozer will lower the blade.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Can you sense a theme here? Winner: kachi-koshi, Loser: DARWIN! As a bonus it’s the spherical Chiyomaru vs the Isegahama mobile attack platform, Terutsuyoshi. Whose sumo will reign supreme? (Oh, sorry – this is not kitchen stadium…)

Azumaryu vs Tochiozan – They had to slide the battle of the damned in here somewhere, so let’s take a look at a couple of sad cases of violent, explosive demotion. Tochiozan could very well end up being the skipper of the Juryo barge. And I don’t see how he can prevent Azumaryu throwing him overboard to try to save his own Maegashira 16 self. [Note: this is Azumaryu’s 7th basho ranked in the top division. He sat out one, and finished make-koshi in each of the other 6, including the current one. Twice, he dodged demotion with a 7-8 record, most recently in January. -lksumo]

Shohozan vs Sadanoumi – It’s another game of “Blow the man down” as fellow grizzled veteran Shohozan takes on water. He holds a 10-4 career advantage over Sadanoumi and his speed sumo. But right now Shohozan is lacking quite a bit, probably due to injuries, and I worry he is gone from the top division after the next tournament.

Daiamami vs Tamawashi – In still more demotion follies, it’s Daiamami on the bubble for Juryo in this match, as already make-koshi Tamawashi works to muster enough genki to send the Oitekaze man into exile in the junior division. This is a first-time match between the two, so who knows what kind of fight they will choose.

Enho vs Myogiryu – Have you had enough brutality yet? No, you have not! Because here comes another. Myogiryu is already in the double-digit-loss column, and he’s headed south in a big way. No, not onto the Juryo barge, but he’s going to be able to see Juryo from where he ends up. Enho will probably use his high-mobility sumo this time, and may end the tournament 7-8. I have to wonder if he has some injury.

Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – A Yutakayama win today, and he’s kachi-koshi. A loss and he joins the ranks of the Darwin meat grinder. Tochinoshin is already make-koshi, and clearly in a bunch of pain along with having mobility and power problems. So I am going to guess that the “Big Unit” is going to get his first win over the former Ozeki today.

Takanosho vs Mitakeumi – Yes! It’s the first of our big matches! Both are 10-3, both are fighting very well, and only one of them can exit with their 11th win. If its Mitakeumi, the Ozeki talk may start up again. He certainly has shown better sumo than injured Takakeisho, and sumo really needs like 3 more Ozeki. But then there is Takanosho. This guy really has over-performed this March, and I hope it’s the shape of things to come.

Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – And yet again – Winner is kachi-koshi, loser joins the Darwin crew for day 15. It’s going to be a blood bath of epic proportions Sunday, yes indeed. This is a first-time match, so some guesswork will be required by both rikishi as far as tactics to use. I expect Okinoumi to dive inside and try to get his favorite grip, and Kiribayama to try and stay mobile.

Kaisei vs Tokushoryu – Will kachi-koshi Kaisei take pity on the Hatsu yusho winner? I am not suggesting match fixing, but Tokushoryu is already at double digit losses, and these two have some history together (9-3 advantage Kaisei).

Daieisho vs Ryuden – Daieisho needs a win to avoid joining the Darwin crew on day 15. He’s up against make-koshi Ryuden, who has lost 5 out of the last 6 matches. Ouch!

Hokutofuji vs Kagayaki – Hokutofuji, who is also suspected of nursing some form of injury, is already at double-digit losses, and will be trebuchet’d down the banzuke with a resounding, fleshy thud. But if he drops into the double-digits of Maegashira land, and can recover his health, he is going to be an absolute terror in the next tournament. If Kagayaki wins – a nice kachi-koshi for March. If he loses to Cap’n Stompy – that’s right, MOAR DARWIN!

Abi vs Endo – Abi beat the stuffing out of Shodai on day 13, only to find that he was mostly made of sawdust and burlap moments before the golem of Shodai hurled him down. That would be enough to shake any man to his soul, but he’s going to try to give Endo the business today. Yeah, Endo has a one track mind of that right hand frontal mawashi grip. But if Abi can breath some life into the embers of his sumo, its… MOAR DARWIN FOR ENDO! Abi holds a 7-2 career advantage.

Takarafuji vs Shodai – Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, and he’s really done a solid job of earning it this tournament. But how far does he want to run up the score? At Maegashira 7, he’s already a candidate for the joi-jin. If he beats Shodai, he’s going to be in the thick of it next time. If Shodai wins today, he’s going home with a well deserved 8th win, and a retention of his Sekiwake rank. If not, well… its… DARWIN TIME!

Takakeisho vs Onosho – Readers know I have been looking forward to this match for over a year. Yes, I had to wait to the penultimate day to get my tadpole battle Royale, but here it is. I just wish that Takakeisho were in better condition. They are tied 2-2 across their career, but I am going to guess that Takakeisho takes Onosho apart, which means the Ozeki gets to play with the Darwin troopers. A loss and he is kadoban.

Hakuho vs Aoiyama – A word to Big Dan Aoiyama. Fire up the V-Twin and open the throttle. Yes, the boss is probably going to put you on the clay, but ride this one out hard and fast. Give him everything in your powerful, moving forward style. It’s what the fans want to see, and you just might get the job done.

Asanoyama vs Kakuryu – High-stakes match. A win here and I am going to guess that Asanoyama becomes worthy of consideration for Ozeki. Even though the discussed number is 12 (and it should be), the NSK may look at the banzuke and decide they need another Ozeki, stat. He has beaten Kakuryu before, so it’s possible. But Kakuryu of Haru 2020 is a focused, forceful Yokozuna who has ample skill and power to deal with this upstart from Toyama.